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Tesla Builds First Electric-Car Roadster

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Tesla Motors says its new roadster is in production, and that customers will begin to get their cars soon.

The electric-car maker has had some rough patches since we last spoke with them in October, when we took a first ride in the Tesla Roadster. Problems with the vehicle's transmission led to delays, and a slow start-up to production has been the result.

The Tesla is built on the same chassis as the Lotus Elise, but swaps out the Elise's gas engine for an array of 6800 lithium-ion batteries.

The new roadster will be badged a 2008 model, and will be priced from $98,950, Tesla says. Automotive News also reports that the company has more than 900 reservations for the cars, and expects to get about 600 of them to customers this year. The production plan for next year is 400 cars.

Tesla also has plans for five-passenger sedan for the 2010 model year, and says it will build up to 10,000 sedans a year in a new facility in Albuquerque, N.M.

For all its promises, we're still not sure if Tesla is the real thing. Will shoppers really adapt to a $100,000 electric car the size of an Elise? And is there enough venture-capital money out there to fund an even bigger Tesla Motors sedan? Tell us if you think electric cars will sink or swim, and if Tesla's the captain of the ship, either way.
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Comments (10)
  1. Is it a wonder America will remain a hostage to fossil fuel transportation when you taut a car with a price tag greater than a Lexus, a BMW, an Acura, a Mercedes, and even a Porche. Get real! The purpose of the electric car is to clean the planet, not gouge it's inhabitants.

    James Hoffman
    Asheville, NC

  2. The Tesla is truly a great idea, because people that pay $100,000 for that car, can afford it. It’s just another toy to them. A lot of them may want it because it’s electric and enviro-friendly, while others just want another toy in their arsenal. There’s no question in my mind that the Tesla will be a success. Remember it’s not just an electric car… it’s an electric sports car! It was purposely conceived to be that.

  3. More electric vehicles are coming soon. Nissan, Mitsubishi, BMW, Mercedes and others are developing all electric vehicles. Also take a look at Zap motors.

    Keep in mind that Tesla's original plan was to use this electric sports car to develop their production and business and later start producing some more consumer oriented cars.

    You can home convert a vehicle to all electric for about $15k, but for this price you'll be limited in range and driveability.

    The Tesla, on the other hand, uses Lithium batteries and an A/C motor to give unbelievable performance and range.

    Stay tuned. Consumer electric vehicles are coming.

    Mike Hensley
    Houston, TX

  4. James Hofman - I don't think you have any understanding of the costs involved in building something like the Tesla. Your laptop battery pack has six 18650 cells, the battery needed for something like the Tesla has over 2000 - and you've got to have something of consistent, known quality which costs a fair bit more than the commodity Chinese stuff that goes into your eBay Thinkpad battery.

    Consider, too, that Tesla doesn't particularly want price-sensitive customers at this point; they're a new company with minimal support infrastructure and they need customers that aren't going to whine about the costs and frustrations of dealing with a new product that's likely to have teething problems. The fact is that ownership of anything based on an Elise platform requires some commitment (and chiropractic) on the part of the owner.

    Tesla first has to show they can ship product. That product has to work, and they have to show that they can support it. Then they have to show they can ship enough of it, at a profitable price-point, to make the company a viable going concern.

  5. I have always wondered why the manufacturers of one of the most expensive cars in the world cannot afford a good photographer. All of the photos taken by the company are very dark and unrevealing, like they really don't want you to know what the car really looks like. Is it a big secret or is the design still being negotiated or what are they hiding?

    What does Hensley mean by his statement that "You can home convert a vehicle to all electric for about $15k, but for this price you’ll be limited in range and driveability."? I understand that range is limited by battery power, but how does it limit "driveability"?

    I also think that JEM's numbers are mixed up, as the article states that the Tesla has 6800 lithium-ion batteries, not 2000.

    Many foreign manufacturers are skipping the hybrid stage and going straight to the all-electric vehicle, which is a good sign; however the American government seems to want to restrict the speed of electric vehicles to 25 to 40 mph and keep everything affordable in the NEW and LSV range. It's time the government got with the program and encouraged electric vehicles with tax incentives and funding for development and distribution.

  6. I"m all for electrics, get that price down and get a few bugs out, then look out. If GM ever gets off of their donkey and comes out with the Volt, that will help open the door, then every company that's left will get serious about electrics and diesel hybreds. Until then we will keep driving vehicles that get the same or less mileage that we got 40 years ago....

  7. to MAE,

    Regarding the "driveability" of a home converted electric vehicle. relative to the Tesla's and upcoming electric vehicles performance, the home convert vehicle's speed is not typically as high. Yes, there are some exceptions. There are some people building electric dragsters, but typically this is not the case.

    The Tesla, on the other hand has a top speed of around 125 mph. This would make it easily driveable on any freeway or interstate.

    Believe me, the home converted electric vehicles are outstanding. And for any of us that have commutes of about 20 miles or less each way and don't expect to need to drive consistantly at 70+ mph, an electric vehicle is easily within reach for most people that can tackle this conversion. There are a lot of companies, clubs, blogs, etc. that support these conversions. I might even do one myself for my kids to drive to school.

    This is a good discussion. Electric vehicles are a new (or reborn) frontier in the auto industry. There's a lot of excitement and innovation going on.

  8. I’d like to point out that the Tesla is not built on the same chassis as the Lotus Elise. Please read for details about which parts are from Lotus and which are from Tesla. About 7% of the parts from the Elise are used and none of those parts are major components.

    I think Mr. Hofman should read Tesla’s mission statement and maybe learn a little more about Elon Musk (Tesla’s chairman) and his personal goals for reducing our country’s dependence on oil. The people at Tesla know that starting a car company is expensive, so they’ve turned their business model on it’s head by putting out an expensive car with the hopes that wealthier people will help drive down development costs for their next less expensive sedan model. Roadster owners will make it possible for Tesla to sell less expensive EVs in the future, and are in a sense, making a significant investment in cleaner transportation technology.

    I’m a little saddened by Mr. Azevedo’s comment that the Roadster is “just another toy” to people who can afford them. I’m on the 2009 wait list for one, but I can assure you that it was not an easy decision to dedicate that much money for a car. I really think Tesla is on to something and I want to be part of it. Being “part of it” means more to me than advocating EVs on blogs. It also means financially supporting those who are committed to reducing our dependence on oil.

  9. This is the car we should see all the Hollywood elite and politicians driving..they have the money now its time to put up or shut up. They drive high end luxury cars that do what....get the worst gas mileage of anything on the road but they tell us to do more for the planet.

  10. Mark - Way to go! I only wish I could be there with you financially supporting this brave effort. Unfortunately, I am not ( yet :-) ). But, because of people like you who supported the initial development, maybe one day I too can afford an all electric vehicle.

    On the unrelated subject - we spent 500 billion and 4000 lives protecting oil interests over the last 5 years. There is no end in sight to this at the moment either. Had we spent this colossal amount of money on developing alternative energy technologies and sources and infrastructures I am sure we all would have 1 or 2 EVs parked in our driveways by now.

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